MOORE — Three months after an EF-5 tornado demolished their school, students, faculty and staff of Plaza Towers Elementary are days into their new school year, and offices like principal Amy Simpson’s reflect an atmosphere of newness and resolute positivity.
Amid boxes and frames yet to be hung, a plaque reading “Life isn’t about surviving the storm, but learning to dance in the rain” is prominently displayed on a bookshelf.
“Now that school has started, I think everyone is exhaling and taking a deep breath,” Simpson said. “Learning the flow and getting settled is part of every new school year, it’s just more compounded this year in a new setting.”
Plaza’s temporary facility is a free-standing building on the Central Junior High School campus, closely adjacent to the main building housing the junior high’s classes.
For a community that has shrunk from 500 to 350 students, with more than half of those students’ families experiencing severe losses May 20, the autonomous setup provides some sense of normalcy with a few added perks.
“The kids are in hog heaven with lunch because middle school lunch has a menu and they can order different things like slushies — they love it,” Simpson said, smiling. “We were in a 46-year-old building and now everything is brand new; it has a new-building smell and books and supplies are new, too, and everybody — especially the kids — loves new stuff.”
Closeness to Central Junior High will provide the Plaza community with a supportive academic and emotional resource, eliminating any sense of isolation as Plaza moves forward.
“I’m excited about potential academic partnerships between our two schools, like inviting junior high students over for reading groups,” Simpson said. “I think Plaza students could benefit from the social and emotional support of older peers and the junior high students could benefit from the service.”